The stunning lakelands of Fermanagh were my home until I was 6 years old. Despite this, and the fact that over the last few years I have taken hundreds of photos of Irish landscapes, I hadn't taken a single photo in Fermanagh. It was a source of embarrassment in some ways. How could I neglect one of our most beautiful counties, especially one where I have fond childhood memories?
I decided to change that this summer. I booked an overnight stay in Enniskillen and kept my fingers crossed that the weather would make the booking worthwhile. I arrived at 8pm and needed to leave by 7am the next morning. My challenge was that I had 11 hours to capture the essence of Fermanagh (5 hours when you take off 6 hours sleep!). This blog covers my journey and the photos produced working through in chronological order.
The Janus Figure
My journey to Fermanagh took me through Omagh and Kesh to my first stop, Boa Island. The plan was to start at the north east end of Lower Lough Erne and work down the east side until darkness fell.
Boa Island is the largest island in Lough Erne and located on the island are two strange carved stone statues in Caldragh cemetery. The statue pictured above is called the Janus figure and has two faces. It is thought to represent a Celtic deity and perhaps was made by early Christians who included older pagan beliefs in their grave sites.
As you can see, visitors often leave coins at the statue. They also make a wish, and hope the statue will provide good luck.
The Jetty to Hare Island
My sunset plans were set for an area of the mainland that looks out to Boa Island. So, in the time up to sunset and after I had photographed the Janus figure I examined my map and found a jetty that looks out to Hare Island. Cows grazed on the small Hare Island, seen on the left. I'm sure taking them back and forth by boat is fun!
The unique feature of a county filled with lakes is that you have no shortage of piers to photograph! This was another unplanned shot in the run-up to sunset (which was shaping up nicely to my right). Situated in the townland of Portinode, this old pier looks out to the large Boa Island. I just had to be careful not to sink under the lake with the rest of the pier when getting this shot! You can see how the pier is sinking at the bottom of the shot.
Sunset had arrived and I was in my planned location. On the left was Boa Island and in the distance Kesh Forest which where the sun was due to set behind. The light was very kind, and that was without making a wish at the Janus figure! A couple of piers and a boat, interestingly called 'The Alien' provided foreground interest.
As previously mentioned, I had booked this overnight trip two weeks in advance. Anyone who lives in this part of the world will know for most of this summer we've had grey, cloudy weather and heavy rain. To fluke a sky like this was such a great feeling and I could tell it would be one of those summer sunsets that keeps on giving long after sunset and into twilight which would give me time to tick off a few more locations.
This shot was taken about 5 minutes after the sun had sun set behind the tree-line of Kesh Forest in north Fermanagh. It was so peaceful and if you look on the right of the shot you can see a lone swan bathing in the glowing orange waters.
It was time to start working southwards along the eastern shores of Lower Lough Neagh towards my bed for the night in Enniskillen. However, I would still have time for another couple of shots. I pulled in to Muckross which is a popular boating and fishing destination near Kesh. I remember caravanning near here in Loaneden when I was younger. I quickly chose my spot, set up the tripod, clicked my remote and was about to head back to the car when I bumped into a woman photographing the sunset on her phone. We got chatting about the great sky that night and I explained how I had travelled down from Lisburn for the night to photograph Fermanagh and she suggested I take a trip to Clareview viewing point. She said how it had a great view right over the lake and also over the small islands dotted around Castle Archdale.
I found the small road that leads up to Clareview and could tell I'd been given good advice. The views down to my left over White Island and the other small islands were so good I almost pulled over there and then. However, it's a narrow road and I was told there was a viewing point so I kept going until I found the parking bay with stunning views south west over Lower lough Erne. In the middle distance you can see Castle Archdale Islands Forest and White Island, both forested. In the far distance you can see the Cliffs of Magho drop sharply into the Lough and Lough Navar Forest. The sheep clearly enjoyed the view too as they stared towards the red glows of twilight.
Although I could've continued shooting landscapes through the night, I had plans for sunrise and also a lot to do when I got home the next day and didn't want to be a useless zombie all day! I checked into my hotel, grabbed a quick pint in Saddler's pub and reviewed my photos so far. After that, I headed for a few hours sleep with the alarm set for 5am.
The Devenish Island Monastic site was founded in the 6th century by Saint Molaise. During its history it has been raided by Vikings, burned down and then flourished as a parish church site. The round tower which is so prominent on the island dates from the 12th century.
The sun was due to rise behind me and in my head I had imagined a misty lake with the early light of the sun against the round tower. However, it was one of those special mornings where I got a bit of everything.
The colour was so strong in the eastern sky that it even reached into the western skies behind Devenish. The lake was perfectly calm with super reflections and there was a gentle touch of mist on the surface of the water. It was time to move on again!
I didn't move too far to get my next photo. This was shortly after sunrise further north along the lough at Trory. I was about to photograph the T-shaped stone jetty when these two swans started to swim towards me and into frame. I adjusted composition and their reflections and brief poses were much appreciated!
My next couple of photos took me across Lough Erne to its western side and on crossing the lough I passed through the beautiful island town of Enniskillen (Ceithlenn's island). I got myself down to the shoreline of the River Erne and looked across to Enniskillen Castle. It was built almost 600 years ago by the ruling Gaelic Maguires. Guarding one of the few passes into Ulster from the southwest it has been strategically important throughout its history.
Sillees river valley mist
From Enniskillen I headed west and on the lower slopes of Belmore mountain, near Boho I spotted this vast area of mist across the landscape. The colour of sunrise was still strong in the sky against the dew soaked green fields. I wasn't aware at the time but the area of mist was over the Sillees river, Ross Lough and Carran Lough outside Derrygonnelly.
My final destination before heading home was Belmore Forest and Pollnagollum cave. Pollnagollum comes from the Irish 'Poll na gColm', meaning 'hole of the doves' and is a cave making up part of the extensive Marble Arch Caves. The waterfall which guards the entrance to the cave has a unique and distinctive flow down from the limestone cliffs above. The cave is actually a location in the HBO series Game of Thrones. It was used as Beric Dondarrion's hideout during series 3.
By the time I had photographed the waterfall it was 7am and I had to be on my way home and onto the M1 motorway.
My 11 hour photo challenge of the famously lovely county of Fermanagh was complete.
You can view my Fermanagh gallery here.